On NPR’s Fresh Air, historian Nelson Lichtenstein discusses the impact of Wal-Mart on both the American and the global economy in his new book, The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business. Here is the NPR Podcast http://ow.ly/lBIa . I found the history of Wal-Mart interesting but what I found most interesting was a small piece of the interview covering a recent unprecedented Wal-Mart settlement of 60+ class action lawsuits.
I applaud Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts; I find them to be THE leader when it comes to corporate sustainability. At the same time, their leading sustainability efforts should not mask the high number of labor related greivances facing their stores. This settlement of the class action lawsuits #1) was unprecedented and #2) went unnoticed in the media.
Here is the transcript below:
Another side of this, though, which I think is more significant, is that Wal-Mart was very aware that it was subject to many, many lawsuits, lots of bad public relations for its – not just its low wages, but its illegal payment of low wages, its failure to adhere to the standard variety law governing wages, hours, etcetera. And so after the election of Barack Obama in November, Wal-Mart clearly made a decision that they wanted to solve that problem.
So on December 23rd, while everyone else was thinking about Christmas, Wal-Mart announced that it would settle 63 wage and hour class-action lawsuits against it at a price of, you know, upwards of $600 million.
Now, Wal-Mart had a terrific reputation, a fearsome reputation for never settling class-action lawsuits. I mean, they just said, you know, these are just people trying to come after us and get some of our money. But they agreed to settle them.
It’s because Obama was elected. Hilda Solis was the new secretary of labor, who would a little later say there’s a new sheriff in town. We’re going to enforce these laws. And I think this is as significant as the environmental activities. And if Wal-Mart does continue to settle these kind of suits and agree to obey the law, that will be significant.